Dominion Virginia Power is working with Virginia Tech to make the smart grid smarter by developing and testing technology to improve the electric grid's efficiency and reliability. This technology, known as "synchrophasors," does this by providing dynamic real-time information about conditions on the transmission grid.

The research project, funded by a $1.5 million grant from the Department of Energy, also involves Quanta Technology of Raleigh, North Carolina.

The new technology provides grid operators with the ability to foresee, prevent and manage potential overloads on the grid, and route power more efficiently.

"If you characterize the current state of technology for monitoring the power system as an X-ray image, synchrophasor technology will provide MRI-quality data," said Arun Phadke, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Virginia Tech's Blacksburg campus.

Phadke's work with synchrophasor technology, which provides precise, real-time data on transmission system conditions, began nearly 27 years ago. He invented the key building block of this technology -- the phasor measurement unit -- and credits the 2003 blackout of the northeast United States for initiating the emergence of this technology.

As part of a larger project submitted by PJM and 12 member transmission owners, Dominion will also receive federal stimulus funds to help put these efforts to practical use and install the new systems as this tailored research and development is completed in the laboratories.

"I'm thrilled to see this technology moving from the lab to the grid," says R. Matthew Gardner, Dominion's lead engineer on the project. "For our system operators, it's the 'Wizard of Oz' moment when the world goes from shades of gray to full, living color."